He Likes it Greasy! And Sticky! And Gooey! And Salty!
On Kernels Nashville Popcorn's Chocolate Cherry Popcorn and The Supremes' "Buttered Popcorn"
February is Black History Month so every Sunday edition of Snack and Destroy this month will feature a Black-owned snack or candy company. Buy their products! Support them on social media! They’re doing really delicious things.
Kernels Nashville Popcorn’s Chocolate Cherry Popcorn
I don’t give popcorn enough credit; it really is the perfect snack. It’s versatile, accessible, and making it doesn’t require any special kitchen tools. It can be sweet or savory, it can be made simply with just a little butter and salt or it can be dressed up with unconventional toppings like harissa caramel, kale dust, or gold… for $5 per kernel.
Popcorn is the unsung hero of the snack world; I love you popcorn!
I especially love the popcorn from Kernels Nashville Popcorn. The family-owned East Nashville shop is small, but the snacks that come out of that kitchen are mighty.
Each kernel is huge. These aren’t the pitiful little “butterfly” kernels that fall to crumbs the instant they’re touched, these are big and round, fat crispy kernels of mushroom-style popcorn with more nooks and crannies than a human brain.
Hiding in all those brainy nooks and crannies are pockets of flavor, from caramel, white cheddar, and vanilla cinnamon to Nashville Hot, a mouth-burning but enticing blend of spices so hot that I can only tolerate it one kernel at a time. (I am a wuss. You may fare better.)
What really stands out, though, is how they blend those flavors together.
Surely you’ve heard of Chicago-style popcorn, the salty and sweet mix of cheddar and caramel popcorn, yes? At Kernels, they do it Nashville style, mixing the caramel corn with the Nashville Hot flavor, and it is magnificent. The caramel glaze is sweet and buttery, a bit more mild than some other caramel corn that’s cooked to a deeper, richer brown, and it balances out the heat of its fiery orange counterpart beautifully.
My current favorite is their February special, a chocolate-covered cherry popcorn. Their big, beautiful popcorn is coated with a thinner-than-paper and fragile-as-glass layer of gorgeous ruby red cherry glaze. Each bite is like shattering the sugary top of creme brulee between your teeth over and over and over again — it’s supremely satisfying. Then the popcorn is finished off with a drizzle of chocolate, just enough to kiss each piece with a little somethin’ somethin’ without outshining the cherry flavor. (Behold, their chocolate drizzle in action.)
It is the kind of popcorn I can’t make at home. It is the kind of popcorn that is best bought and consumed quickly while watching the Super Bowl, the Winter Olympics, or, my favorite form of entertainment, my dog twitching in his sleep. Lucky for you non-Nashvillians, Kernels ships nationwide — and it won’t cost you $250/gallon like that gold popcorn nonsense. Did you see that shit? Ridiculous.
“Buttered Popcorn” by The Supremes
It’s Florence Ballard, not Diana Ross, who sings lead on The Supremes’ 1961 single “Buttered Popcorn,” and that is the secret to the song’s success.
The tune is playful, as goofy as The Marathons’ “Peanut Butter” (which was released that same year), but it’s Ballard’s soulful, from-the-gut vocals that elevate the song from silly to borderline steamy. As Ballard delivers lines like, “He likes it greasy / and sticky / and gooey / and salty,” it’s impossible not to wonder if she’s not-so-slyly singing about, ahem, something else. (Sex.)
But just as the brain starts to look for more signs of innuendo, backup vocalists Ross, Mary Wilson, and Barbara Martin pipe in with their enthusiastic “buttered popcorn”s, dragging the song back towards the novelty side of the spectrum. It’s those repetitive “buttered popcorn”s that suggest The Supremes were hoping to appeal to the younger, record-buying crowd who just wanted to shake their ass to something as innocent as really liking popcorn.
Because who doesn’t like popcorn? I just told you, popcorn is perfect!
What’s more, Berry Gordy, who co-wrote the song with Barney Ales, has said “Buttered Popcorn” really is about the salty snack. According to Gordy, he was inspired while he and Ales were on a double date with their wives at the movies eating — what else? — buttered popcorn. Or so the story goes.
Whatever it’s about, “Buttered Popcorn” is an irresistible, danceable bop that pops off like kernels in a hot skillet and Ballard adds a fun layer of mystique as she injects the silly song with a bit of sultry soul, never letting us truly know if she’s singing about youknowwhat or if she’s sincerely concerned about her man’s popcorn-for-all-three-meals-a-day habit. As much as I love her, Diana Ross could never.